Brindisi Proposes Legislation To Combat Barricades Used Inside Drug Houses
New legislation being proposed in Albany could help local law enforcement officials make a larger impact on drug dealers in the community.
"First and foremost, we want to make sure officers are safe," Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi said. "The longer it takes an officer to breach a door to a drug house, the more time the drug dealer has to arm themselves, escape or dispose of the drugs, which leads to no criminal conviction. The drug dealer walks free and they can set up shop somewhere else."
Brindisi is introducing a new three-point plan to address the uptick in barricades used inside of drug houses, and to reduce the number of landlords turning a blind eye to the situation. He is also asking local law enforcement to implement the immediate practice of documenting the fortifications, to be used later on as evidence to help prosecution in their cases.
District Attorney Scott McNamara, who attended the announcement, says the proposed law will have an immediate impact.
"Right now what we deal with in these fortified apartments... by the time the police are able to get in, the drugs are destroyed, flushed down the toilet or whatever the case might be. We end up with no prosecution," McNamara said.
McNamara also discussed the leg up that law enforcement can get on drug dealers by allowing the D.A. to intervene during the eviction process.
"It's another tool in our toolbox that will help us," "[We can] rid drug dealers form our community and get drug dealers evicted from apartments that they have been able to take over. This will allow us help the landlords get rid of people that are squatting in an apartment, not paying rent and just took it over through adverse possession. It'll also help us with the landlords that do identify the problem, are trying to get rid of somebody, but aren't having much luck."
Utica Police Chief Mark Williams was also pleased with the new proposed legislation, saying the recent uptick in barricade usage puts his officers at risk every time they execute a no-knock search warrant.
"This will possibly make them think twice about fortifying their drug houses, because for us it's really about a safety issue," Williams said. "When our emergency response teams conduct these no-knock search warrants, they try to gain entrance to these apartments. Speed and surprise are critical in order for us to get in there and ensure the officer's safety. When you're still outside that doorway pounding away to get in, you're losing that and you're giving the suspects inside the opportunity to arm themselves."
He noted that as many as one in four investigations have resulted in the use of barricades to slow down the entrance of officers.
If the barricade bill passes and is signed into law, using any kind of fortification to protect a drug house would become a felony, resulting in 5 to 15 years behind bars. Currently, there are no laws on the books, and if the drugs are disposed of during the search, there is little evidence available to build a case.
Both bills are currently in committee, but have co-sponsorship from State Senator Jeffrey Klein.